Date: April 12, 2023

Time: 6.30 pm – 8.30 pm

Duration: 6 weeks

Level: Beginner | Emerging |

Cost: €165 (€150 Members)

Online/In Person: In Person

Course Summary

Students will be asked to submit in advance of the course a 1,000 word sample, either of a work in progress, or a piece they have written for the purpose of the course. Before each class, Liza will circulate an extract from these student samples along with an extract from a classic psychological thriller.  

Each class will be structured as follows:  

  • a presentation on the class topic;  
  • a workshop in which selected student manuscripts are considered alongside classic texts in the genre; and  
  • discussion and recap.  

So, for example, the class on setting and atmosphere (Week 3) might consider the impact of atmosphere and how it’s been created in one or two student manuscripts and Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. Students will also receive a detailed critique of their manuscript at the end of the course. 

This course is suitable for creative writing beginners as well as those with experience writing in a different genre or form (e.g. the short story) and interested in learning about the psychological thriller. 

Course Outline

Week 1: What is a psychological thriller? In this class, we will consider differences between literary and genre fiction, and between the psychological thriller and other crime novels. 

Week 2: Plot. This class will focus on the key plot elements of a psychological thriller. 

Week 3: Setting and atmosphere. This class will look at the critical importance of creating an unsettling atmosphere in this genre. 

Week 4: The (unreliable) narrator. Week 4 will look at how the unreliability of the narrator helps keep the reader in the dark, that place where half-glimpsed dangers are always partly obscured.  

Week 5: Tension and pacing. Week 5 will be about the importance of maintaining tension and achieving the right pace throughout the novel, so that the reader wants to keep reading – a defining feature of the thriller. 

Class 6: Climax and denouement. Returning to plot (and plot twists), the last class will consider reader expectations around the climax and ending of a psychological thriller.  


Course Outcomes

A deeper understanding of the psychological thriller genre and its defining characteristics; 

A 1,000 word sample of a psychological thriller drafted and critiqued (both in class and via written feedback from tutor); 

Greater understanding of the genre, leading to greater confidence in approaching it as a writer. 

Liza Costello is the author of two psychological thrillers, The Estate and Crookedwood (both Hachette Ireland).

She also writes short fiction and poetry, and has been short-listed for the RTE Radio 1 Short Story Award, the Seán Ó’Faoláin International Short Story Competition, the William Trevor / Elizabeth Bowen Short Story Competition and the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award for an unpublished collection. In 2011, she won the Dromineer Literary Festival Poetry Award. Her writing has been broadcast on RTE Radio 1 (Short Story Award programme, Sunday Miscellany and A Living Word) and published in The Irish Independent (New Irish Writing), The Stinging Fly, Southword, Crannóg, The Manchester Review, The Interpreter’s Hat and Mslexia.

Liza is a professionally trained copy-editor and proofreader. She used to be a social researcher.